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Jackson trying to catch on

FOXBOROUGH -- Rookie wide receiver Chad Jackson is experiencing both ends of the football spectrum in his first season with the Patriots.

In one respect, he's living his dream of playing in the NFL. And with the riches he earned from his first multimillion-dollar contract, Jackson already bought his sister, Devin, a home in Alabama.

Yet the 21-year-old Jackson is hardly fulfilled. In fact, he's been quite frustrated by an offseason hamstring injury. He said he's currently at 90 percent health.

``It affects you mentally and physically," he said. ``You want to be out there helping those guys and you don't want to let your team down. You don't want to let the fans down at the same time. Coming in here as a second-round receiver, you want to make your mark."

Jackson has played in three of the Patriots' five games, with four catches for 51 yards and one touchdown. He also had a 10-yard run on a third-down reverse that set up the team's first touchdown against the Bengals Oct. 1.

But his production hasn't been consistent in a season in which the Patriots have been mixing and matching at the receiver spot. Jackson missed the season opener, came back strong in the second week against the Jets, then was inactive the next week against the Broncos.

After making two catches for 42 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut, Jackson was disappointed that he couldn't build off that.

``It was one of those days where I wasn't feeling too well. My hamstring tightened up a little bit, and I didn't want to go out there and take a chance on it and get reinjured," he said of missing the Denver game. ``I'm feeling pretty good right now, practicing on a consistent basis. Hopefully I'll be out on the field more."

Jackson played the last two weeks, drawing a start in Sunday's 20-10 win over the Dolphins. But he was held without a catch, dropping the one short pass thrown in his direction. His playing time was limited, with the Patriots using Reche Caldwell and Doug Gabriel as their primary outside receivers and Troy Brown on third down.

The 6-foot-1-inch, 215-pound Jackson, who was one of the fastest receivers available in the draft, acknowledged that he's heard some criticism lobbed in his direction, including charges that he isn't committed to football.

``I don't listen to it," he said. ``I heard there has been a lot of stuff said out there about us [as receivers] and about me personally. Everyone has their own opinion, but they don't know the truth that goes on here on the field and in the locker room."

Jackson said learning the offense hasn't been a problem, and the only thing holding him back is his health.

``I'm fine with the offense right now, I have no problems with it," he said. ``They just keep adding on stuff and I keep on picking it up. So if they keep doing it, I'll be fine with the offense."

Jackson said part of his motivation each day is to play for his late stepbrother, who died when Jackson was in high school. Jackson's stepbrother wore No. 8, and Jackson said he dons No. 17 as a tribute, because the two digits added together equal eight.

On the field, Jackson said, he's excited to have three other University of Florida players among the receiving corps: Caldwell, recently signed Jabar Gaffney, and practice squad player Kelvin Kight. But he said there was no doubt who runs the offense: quarterback Tom Brady.

``Brady is a cool guy," said Jackson. ``We joke around every now and then, and he teaches a lot when we're out on the field. He just wants us all to get on the same page, me and all the other receivers. For me, I just want to get back out there doing what I do, making plays."

As for any advice he would pass on to other rookie receivers, Jackson said simply: ``Don't get hurt."

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